After the whirlwind that was Rupert Howell, the IPA this week opted
for Bruce Haines's more tranquil approach when it formally chose its
president for the next two years. The selection of the IPA leader
doesn't always reflect advertising's prevailing climate. More often it's
a case of finding somebody who commands not only sufficient respect, but
is time-rich enough to devote anything up to two days a week to the job.
A tough brief.
Somehow, though, recent circumstances have contrived to throw up
presidential candidates who seem to fit the times. When Howell took on
the task in 1999 he was the perfect cheerleader for a business
bedevilled by collective insecurity, solipsism and defensiveness.
Little matter that he was a master of self-hype. He believed
passionately that the industry should be proud of what it did and of its
importance to the economy, and his public advocacy stiffened sinews
during an important period. What's more, Howell's swashbuckling seemed
in tune with an industry riding on the back of a booming economy and
incomes fuelled by dotcoms.
Equally, Haines's less flamboyant style may be in keeping with a
business now needing to pause for breath. Whether or not recession is
about to administer the cold sponge is an open question. Even if the UK
is insulated from the US downturn, problems in the world's biggest ad
market will translate into reduced spends here.
It is apposite that the industry spokesman should be somebody with
Haines's calm authority. He neither talks bullshit nor tolerates it, and
is an experienced manager at an agency that has always kept creativity
at the top of its agenda. If Howell speaks from the heart, Haines speaks
from the head. He champions creativity because he believes it to be the
most important weapon in any agency's armoury.
Howell helped give the industry back its self-belief which, in turn,
encouraged clients to invest in their brands. It will be up to Haines to
help ensure that self-belief is sustained if times get tougher.
Nor must the IPA allow clients to ignore the body of evidence showing
that companies that maintained spending behind their brands during a
downturn will be best placed to profit from an upswing.